Appreciates Russian Mennonite connectionby Orrville Schmidt, Wakarusa, Ind.
I have read Ted Fransen’s April 1 article “The Grandfather I Never Knew” several times now—it is a real Russian Mennonite story and of a genre that never appears in The Mennonite.
My own ancestors migrated from the Ukraine in 1874. In 2006, about 15 of us South Dakota Freeman-Marion Mennonites joined the Mennonite Heritage Cruise and our mindset and reasons why we were on the cruise were markedly different than the rest of the cruise members. Many of them (almost all Canadians) shared experiences like the Fransens. We, from South Dakota, could share, could hear, could sympathize to a certain extent, but we just could not completely identify. “That” was not part of our experience.
This matter or ability of “identification” is rather an interesting phenomenon. Even though we experience “it” in many different facets of everyday life, experiences such as the Fransen’s are not easily identified with. This identification with the past, with family relations, with genealogy, etc., is quite another matter.
I was a “Pax boy” back in 1955-57 in Enkenbach constructing houses for refugees from West Prussia. I knew they were Mennonite but that’s as much as I cared about. Until 2003, that is, when on a large Pax reunion in Enkenbach, I learned that the names of those Mennonites in Enkenbach were the same names I had grown up.
I was stunned—I could hardly believe it: Regier, Nachtigal, Wiebe, Kliewer, Ensz, Tiahrt, Classen, Franz. My God. Perhaps I had been building houses for my cousins six, seven times removed!
Associated Issue: Faithful followers - April 1, 2008
Associated Article: The grandfather I never knew
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